Can You Clean An Airbrush With Water?

There are a multitude of different airbrush cleaners on the market today. And many of them can cost quite a bit. But what if you were able to use simply water to clean your airbrush?

I mean, water is easily accessible for really anybody, and has a small fee of freenintynine. But to be honest, water isn’t always the best airbrush cleaning solution, simply because it’s not as strong as some of the options available.

Plus, I think if water was an acquitted airbrush cleaner odds are the store bought airbrush cleaner would become obsolete.

However, that being said, that doesn’t mean water can’t be used to clean an airbrush.

Depending on the medium sprayed through the airbrush water alone can be used to clean an airbrush. But only on water-based mediums such as acrylics, inks, makeup and so forth. However, water becomes less of a cleaning solution once the medium has dried (Under most circumstances).

Let’s discuss specifically, what mediums can be cleaned using simply water and which ones can’t.

Common Water Malleable Mediums

Here is a list of common mediums sprayed through the airbrush that can be cleaned out using water alone

  • Makeup
  • Acrylic Paints
  • Inks / Dyes
  • Food Coloring

Really anything that is Water-Based can be cleaned up using simply water. Assuming you catch it before the medium dries in the airbrush. At that point your likely to need something more aggressive for cleanup such as, a store bought airbrush cleaner, or a popular home brewed airbrush cleaning recipe.

I personally use a home brewed thinning / cleaning solution on my airbrush and I find it works better up against my createx airbrush paints then simply water alone. However, I can get water to clean up createx paints, it just takes more time and effort.

Common Non-Water Malleable Mediums

Here is a list of common mediums sprayed through the airbrush that will not clean out using simply water

  • Urethane’s
  • Enamels
  • Lacquers
  • Varnishes

Really anything that is Oil / Solvent-Based will heavily resist against water. Assuming the medium is still wet. Now if its dried, water will do absolutely nothing for you in terms of cleanup.

Under most circumstances its best to use the thinner used in the paint for clean up. Assuming your using oil / solvent based paints.

I’d differently wouldn’t recommend the use of water up-against oil / solvent based paints. Simply because it likely won’t do a thing. If anything it may just smear the paint, making more of a mess…

Pros & Cons Of Using Water To Your Clean Airbrush

Now, on the water malleable mediums it can be of benefit to utilize water as your main cleaning agent. However there are some drawbacks to using only water alone…

Lets go over some of the Pros & Cons to cleaning an airbrush with water.

Benefits Of Using WaterDrawbacks Of Using Water
Non-ToxicNot As Aggressive As Other Agents
Low Cost / No CostIs of very little help on dried mediums (Even Water-Based)
Easily Accessible In Large Quantity


To sum things up,

I would recommend the use of using water to clean an airbrush only if you are trying to save a few bucks, and your working with water-based medium/s.


If your currently out of airbrush cleaner and utilizing a water-based medium.

Other then that, water alone isn’t as strong as many of the other cleaning agents available today.

Now, that being said, If your looking to save some money on cleaner, because lets be real, the stuff just gets dumped down the drain. I’d suggest you checkout a few of my favorite homemade airbrush cleaning solutions.

The ingredients are very in-expensive, and easily accessible at virtually any grocery store.

Aside from the home brew, If your looking for some manufactured airbrush cleaner that is specifically made for the job here are a few of my favorites:

Anyway, I hope you were able to find some value here! If you have any further questions regarding the airbrush do be sure to take a look around the website. Airbrush Insider is dedicated to helping all in the airbrush community!

This is Colt signing off!

Check Out Some Of My Favorite Airbrush Equipment:

Next Recommended Resources:

How To Clean An Airbrush (So You Don’t Prematurely Wear Out Parts)


Hello, My Name Is Colt. I have always had an interest in the artistic, and creative side of things. But personally, I enjoy the process of shading and using gradients in order to achieve a photo realistic, 3D image of my choosing! That is the why I employ the airbrush every time I work! I have found the process of Airbrushing to be very therapeutic, and allows me to utilize the creative side of my brain to a greater extent! If you'd like to learn more about me, be sure to check me out over on my About Page

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